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KELLY v. BOWMAN

May 13, 1952

KELLY ET AL.
v.
BOWMAN ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Platt, District Judge.

The court finds the pertinent facts bearing upon the legal problems in this case to be as follows. In August, 1906 Trustees of Schools, Township 19, Range 6, of the County of Piatt and State of Illinois, pursuant to the statutes of the State of Illinois, filed a condemnation suit to take approximately two acres of land from the then owner, Henry L. Timmons "to be taken for a school site". The jury fixed the fair cash market value of the land taken and crops thereon at $355.25. The Trustees paid this amount in accordance with the judgment entered. A schoolhouse and appropriate buildings were constructed on the premises. The Trustees by proper statutory procedure on January 19, 1952 sold all of their interest in the two acres of ground and buildings thereon at public auction to Floyd E. Bowman, one of the defendants herein. Floyd E. Bowman in turn contracted to sell the buildings and ground to Forrest Hise, who has entered his appearance in this cause and adopts all admissions and stipulations by the defendants Floyd E. Bowman and the Trustees of Schools. The dispute arises in this suit over the ownership of the land and the buildings, as the Trustees of Schools have abandoned the premises for school purposes. The plaintiffs are successors in title to the interest, if any, of Henry L. Timmons, in the land and claim the buildings thereon also. All of the facts, including jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties, have been stipulated or admitted by the pleadings. Therefore, the legal questions are presented to this court of determining in whom the title to the two acres now stands and who has the ownership of the buildings.

The first point to be investigated is what title did the Trustees take by the condemnation proceedings. The Trustees of Schools are bound to act in accordance with the statutes applying to them. The statute provided that after election they were authorized to issue bonds and purchase the site selected. Such an election was held. The applicable statutes in force at the time the school site was acquired are as follows:

Ill.Rev.Stat. 1905, Chap. 122, Sec. 151 provides for a vote of the people upon the selection of a school site and that:

    "The site so selected by either of the methods
  above provided shall be the school house site for
  such district; and said district shall have the right
  to take the same for the purpose of a school house
  site either with or without the owner's consent by
  condemnation or otherwise."

Chapter 122, Sec. 152 provides as follows:

    "In case the compensation to be paid for the school
  house site mentioned in the preceding section can not
  for any reason be agreed upon or determined between
  the school directors and the parties interested in
  the land taken for such site, then it shall be the
  duty of the directors of such district to proceed to
  have such compensation determined in the manner which
  may be at the time provided by law for the exercise
  of the right of eminent domain * * *."

Chapter 47, Sec. 10 provides:

    "The judge or court shall * * * make such order as
  to right and justice shall pertain, ordering that
  petitioner enter upon such property and the use of
  the same upon payment of full compensation * * *"
  which "shall constitute complete justification of the
  taking of such property * * *."

The Trustees complied with the statutes in their condemnation proceedings. The petition provided in part that as to the "* * tract of land proposed to be taken for a school site * * * it was decided to proceed at once to condemn said land for said school site * * * and fix the compensation to be paid [the then record title holder] for said land in accordance with the provisions of the Statute in such case made and provided." The instructions to the jury indicated that the jury was to fix the compensation for "* * * land actually taken for school site * * *". Section 151 provides and limits the taking of lands for the purpose of a schoolhouse site. There is no intention expressed by the legislature in this Act for the school district to obtain a fee simple title. It is quite clear that the Legislature intended that the Trustees were to exercise their rights of eminent domain in obtaining the school site for school purposes only.

In Superior Oil Co. v. Harsh, D.C., 39 F. Supp. 467, affirmed 7 Cir., 126 F.2d 572, there was a suit to enjoin operation of an oil well on a school site brought by oil and gas lessees from the original owner against the lessees of the school trustees. The court granted the injunction. No deed to the tract was produced nor was there any evidence that one ever had been executed; there was no record of any eminent domain proceedings or of any payments for the land. The court there said that it made no difference whether payments were made or not, and in commenting on the statutes quoted above said, 39 F. Supp. at page 470:

    "It is obvious from the record that, in pursuance
  of this statute, the school trustees did take the
  school site, with or without the owner's consent. * *
  * [T]he taking amounted to procuration, by virtue of
  eminent domain, of the site for the purposes
  contemplated by the statute. * * * [T]he title in its
  inception was the title obtainable by eminent domain
  [even though acquired informally rather than by court
  action] * * *. The title of the school trustees was
  the statutory title granted by the legislature, title
  by acts of eminent domain, a taking with consent of
  the owner for the use of the inhabitants of the
  township for school purposes."

In another case, where the trustees of schools occupied the premises for a school site without formal condemnation proceedings and attempted to convey the land, the Illinois Supreme Court held the trustees were limited to what was necessary for school purposes (i.e., only an easement). Miner v. Yantis, 410 Ill. 401, 102 N.E.2d 524. In this case, in commenting upon the Superior Oil Company case, the court said, 410 Ill. at page 406, 102 N.E.2d at page 527:

From the principles manifestly expressed in these two decisions this court must hold that the Trustees of Schools had only an easement and when they abandoned the premises for purposes of a school site the title to the two ...


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